By Mike Frandsen
The Washington Nationals are still waiting to give D.C. its first playoff win since 1933. Washington missed an opportunity Wednesday in Game 3 when Chris Carpenter and the Cards blanked the Nats 8-0 at Nationals Park.
The Nats will try to stave off elimination in Game 4 Thursday afternoon in D.C.
The Cards have dominated the last two games by a combined score of 20-4. Washington took the series opener 3-2 despite a shaky performance by starter Gio Gonzalez.
The Nats had major league baseball’s best record with 98 wins, while the Cardinals qualified for the playoffs with 10 fewer victories. But St. Louis has been the dominant team in this series.
It hasn’t looked good for the Nats the last two games, but there is still hope for the Curly W’s.
Here are five reasons why the Nationals can still win the National League Division Series.
1. Nats Game 4 starter Ross Detwiler pitches well at home.
Detwiler, who is essentially taking Stephen Strasburg’s spot in the rotation, has a record of 8-2 at home with a 2.59 ERA. Both numbers are considerably better than his overall tallies of 10-8 and 3.40. The 26-year old lefty Detwiler will face the Cardinals’ Kyle Lohse, who is 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA. But against the Nationals this season, Lohse has an ERA of 6.94 in two starts. Detwiler will have to get out to a strong start and give the Nats at least five innings.
2. The Nats short relievers are pitching effectively.
One of the few bright spots for the Nats has been the performance of their closers. The sample size is small, but right-handers Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen have pitched a total of three scoreless innings in the NLDS. Clippard had a high ERA for a closer during the regular season at 3.72, but he did have 32 saves. Storen had a regular season ERA of 2.37. Storen is healthy after playing the second half of the season after recovering from elbow surgery. If the Nats can get to Clippard and Storen in the late stages of the game with a close score, they’ll have a good shot at a win. The Nats have a record of 27-21 in one-run games, while the Cards’ record in such games is 21-26.
3. The Nationals haven’t lost a 4-game series all season.
Washington has played 11 four-game series this season, winning seven and splitting four. The Nats also haven’t lost back-to-back games at home since July 31 and August 1. It’s also unlikely that the Nats will continue to strand so many base runners. The Nats have left 30 runners on base during the first three games of the series, and in Game 3 they were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position. The Nats cannot get any worse in this category.
4. The Cards’ lucky breaks have to even out.
In the first two innings of Game 3, a trifecta of unlucky plays contributed to the Nats’ downfall. In the top of the first inning, Allen Craig hit a double off Edwin Jackson, but the ball stuck underneath the left field wall instead of bouncing out. That enabled Matt Holliday to score. In the bottom of the inning, Bryce Harper smacked a long fly ball to right field that fell just short of the warning track. If Harper hits that one millimeter higher on the ball, it’s a home run and the game might have been different. Then In the next inning, Danny Espinosa bunted but was called out at first base by umpire Jim Joyce. Replays showed Espinosa beat the throw.
5. Bryce Harper and other Nats’ bats are due to bust out.
Nats rookie phenom Harper is 1-for-15 in the series with six strikeouts. Kurt Suzuki and Adam LaRoche are each 1-for-11. Espinosa is 1 for 9. The Nationals’ bats can’t be silent forever. Manager Davey Johnson should consider switching Harper and Ian Desmond (.583 in NLDS) in the batting order, so that Desmond moves to second and Harper goes to sixth. Another move Johnson could make is to bench the struggling Espinosa for utility infielder Steve Lombardozzi.
Mike Frandsen is a freelance writer covering all things Redskins. His work can be found on Examiner.com.